THE NOW WORD ON MASS READINGS
for May 26th – 31st, 2014
of the Sixth Week of Easter
THERE is a perception in the Church that evangelization is for a chosen few. We hold conferences or parish missions and those “chosen few” come and speak to us, evangelize, and teach. But as for the rest of us, our duty is to simply go to Mass and keep from sin.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
When Jesus said the Church is the “salt of the earth,” He intended to sprinkle us into every facet of life: education, politics, medicine, science, the arts, family, religious life, and so on. There, in the place where we find ourselves, we are to be witnesses of Jesus, not only in how we live, but by testifying to His power in our lives and our need for Him as the only way to eternal life. But who thinks like this? Far too few, which led Pope Paul VI to his landmark encyclical, Evangelii Nuntiandi:
In our day, what has happened to that hidden energy of the Good News, which is able to have a powerful effect on man’s conscience? …Such obstacles are also present today, and we shall limit ourself to mentioning the lack of fervor. It is all the more serious because it comes from within. It is manifested in fatigue, disenchantment, compromise, lack of interest and above all lack of joy and hope. — “On Evangelism in the Modern World”, n. 4, n. 80; vatican.va
Hence, the crisis the world has entered into, which is nothing other than the eclipse of Christ’s saving truths, obscured in part by a Church who herself has lost sight of her mission, lost her fervor, lost her first love.1 Wednesday’s first reading has a particular urgency to it in our time:
God has overlooked the times of ignorance, but now he demands that all people everywhere repent because he has established a day on which he will ‘judge the world with justice’.
Who cannot think of Jesus’ words to St. Faustina declaring that the world is now living in a “time of mercy” that will soon give way to a time of justice? Yes, there is an urgency as we see so many of our friends, family, and neighbours jumping ship from Peter’s Barque to Satan’s barge, all lit in cheap plastic patio lights.
This is why my recent writings on the “Flame of Love” have a timely relevance. “Stir into flame the gift of God that you have,” said St. Paul to the young and timid Timothy, for “God did not give us a spirit of cowardice but rather of power and love and self- control.”2 One way I have found that God stirs into flame His love in my heart is to share it. Just as opening a fireplace door suddenly increases the draft, so too, when we begin to open our hearts to share the life of Jesus, the Spirit fans into flame the power of the Word. Love is a fire that only begets more fire.
This week’s Mass readings teach us the bold-detachment that is necessary for every Christian when it comes to evangelization. For St. Paul had many successes, and many failures. In one place, households are converted, in another they easily dismiss his views, and in another they imprison him. And yet, St. Paul does not let wounded pride, fear, or weakness deter him from sharing the Gospel. Why? The results are up to God, not him.
We read in Monday’s first reading of the conversion of Lydia.
…the Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what Paul was saying.
It is the Holy Spirit, the “Spirit of Truth” that leads souls into truth (Wednesday’s Gospel). The Holy Spirit is the light that comes from the furnace of our hearts on fire for God. If another soul is docile to the Spirit, then the flame of love from our hearts can leap into theirs. We cannot force anyone to believe no more than we can light a wet log.
But we must never judge a soul or situation. Despite setbacks, Paul and Silas choose to praise God in their chains. God uses their faithfulness to shake the conscience of the prison guard and bring about his conversion. How often do we remain silent because we feel that the other will reject us, persecute us, revile us… and thus forfeit a possible life-changing opportunity?
I remember when this writing apostolate began eight years ago with a rather severe word from the Lord:
You, son of man—I have appointed you as a sentinel for the house of Israel; when you hear a word from my mouth, you must warn them for me. When I say to the wicked, “You wicked, you must die,” and you do not speak up to warn the wicked about their ways, they shall die in their sins, but I will hold you responsible for their blood. (Ezek 33:7-8)
I thank God for these words because it is has pushed me over the mountains of timidity time and again. I think too of a beautiful American priest I know, a humble, holy man whom one would think to be a “shoe-in” to Heaven. And yet, one day the Lord showed him a vision of hell. “There is the place Satan has reserved for you if you fail to shepherd souls I have entrusted to you.” He too has thanked the Lord profusely for this “gift” that has kept the flame in his heart from going out and his ministry from becoming lukewarm.
This may sound harsh to us. But look, Jesus didn’t die on the Cross so we could sit back and have a picnic while souls fall into hell like snowflakes. The Great Commission to make disciples of the nations was given to us—to us in 2014 who are now the descendants and children of Apostolic Succession. So let us hear also the tenderness of Our Lord who says to St. Paul:
Do not be afraid. Go on speaking, and do not be silent, for I am with you. (Firday’s first reading)
Let us, like Mary, in Saturday’s Gospel, “make haste” to our neighbour to bring them Jesus living in us—that living Flame of Love that can melt hearts, consume sin, and make everything new. Indeed, let us hurry.
…we must rekindle in ourselves the impetus of the beginnings and allow ourselves to be filled with the ardour of the apostolic preaching which followed Pentecost. We must revive in ourselves the burning conviction of Paul, who cried out: “Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel” (1 Cor 9:16). This passion will not fail to stir in the Church a new sense of mission, which cannot be left to a group of “specialists” but must involve the responsibility of all the members of the People of God. —ST. JOHN PAUL II, Novo Millennio Ineuente, n. 40
- The Urgency of the New Evangelization: Answering the Call, by Dr. Ralph Martin
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